MIRACLES: The Cessation of Spiritual Gifts

By Cecil Willis

In this article, we are concerned with when did or will miracles cease. I maintain that they have already ceased, and others contend that they have not ceased as yet, but that they will cease at some future time. It might aid in clarifying the point of difference if we point out just exactly what the controversy is about. It is not about whether miracles were performed in the New Testament time or not, for I verily believe they were. It certainly is not whether God has the power to perform miracles or not, or believing God did perform miracles through the apostles and early disciples; certainly I believe He has the power to do so. Furthermore, if God chose to work a miracle today, He would definitely have the power to do so, being an infinite God. It is not whether Jews only received miraculous power for both Jews and Gentiles received miraculous gifts. So that is not the point of difference. Well, what is the point of discussion? It is simply whether God is working miracles though men today or not. It is not a question of power, but a question of fact. We want to study some of the passages on the cessation of miraculous gifts in this article. Also we shall note some of the arguments advanced seeking to prove that miracles are yet being performed.

First let us turn to 1 Corinthians 13: “Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I be known fully even as also I was fully known. But know abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (vs. 8-13). In this passage Paul was definitely talking about the time when prophecies would be done away-spiritual gifts would cease. He mentions the time when prophecies would be done away, tongues would cease, and knowledge would be done away. It should be apparent to all that Paul was speaking of miraculous .powers, and the time when they would be no more. Prophecies, tongues and knowledge were miraculous gifts. It is absurd for a person to declare that if one teaches that miraculous gifts were done away there is no knowledge left in the earth. Note the specific knowledge that Paul had in mind: “For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:8). In this passage Paul was enumerating the spiritual gifts. One of them was the gift of knowledge. While I certainly believe that natural knowledge is yet in the world, I do not believe that any man today has supernatural power. The apostles were told to take no thought what they, should say, for it would be given to them of their Father who is in heaven (Matt. 10:19). If these men who claim to have miraculous gifts of divine knowledge have such power, I could ask them to quote any passage in the Bible and even though they may never have memorized it, by divine power they could recite it. Find such a person. We would like for him to be tested.

Furthermore, one says if you say that that “which is perfect” had not come in New Testament times, you are declaring that the church was then imperfect. Paul was speaking of the fact that the New Testament Scriptures had not all been given, and that when they were perfected, or completed, for that is the meaning of the word “perfect”, then that which was in part, namely spiritual gifts or divine knowledge, prophecies, and tongues, were to be done away. Notice also that it is not I who says that that which is perfect had not come, but the apostle Paul: “…but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.”

We are told by men that miracles are a part of the perfect state of the church, and that if one says that miracles are no longer performed, he has removed himself from the gospel of Christ, and has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof. They tell us that miracles are a part of the perfect state of the church. So if the New Testament was given after miracles were given, it made the church imperfect, because anything added to a perfect state would make it imperfect. We know that the giving of the Bible did not make the Lord’s church imperfect. Paul teaches that the revelation itself is that which is perfect. But if spiritual gifts or miracles are a necessary part of the perfect state of the church, then if what some of our friends teach us to be true, namely that the miracles will be done away in heaven, then we would have an imperfect church in heaven. Logic which is so contradictory to plain Bible truth must be predicated upon a fallacy. And it is! Miracles were needed only until the perfect revelation was given and confirmed.

In Mark 16:17, 18, Jesus said, “And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” We are told by our friends who claim the power to work miracles, that not all of these powers were intended to be perpetuated. Jesus only meant that three of them would follow them that believed, and not all five. Notice that Jesus said that believers would be able to (1) cast out demons, (2) speak in new tongues, (3) take up serpents, (4) drink deadly things, (5) heal the sick. But our religious friends who use this passage as proof of their divine authority and power to work miracles say that Jesus only intended for us to cast out demons, speak in tongues, and heal the sick. He never really intended for us to take up serpents without harm or drink poison without bodily injury. But friend, Jesus said that these five signs shall follow those that believe. Either these signs are not continued until today, or if they are to be done today, those who cannot do the signs are unbelievers, for Jesus says that the believers will be able to do these signs. I would like for someone to give the rule of Bible interpretation which makes it possible for one to say three of these signs were to continue and the other two were not. Again I say that the reason why these fellow do not handle serpents and drink deadly things is because those things will get a preacher killed. They lack faith in their power to do these things. In fact, they know if they drank poison, they would die just as you and I would. All these signs were for a given period and are not done today.

Now then, this question; Is it inconsistent for one to pray who does not believe that God works miracles today? It certainly is not. I pray for the sick, but I do not pray that God will heal them by a miracle. I pray that if it be according to His will, that such a one be restored to his normal health. And let me say this humbly: I declare that my prayer which is uttered in faith is as powerful as the prayers of these fellows who claim they can perform miracles. Every time God heals a person today, he does so by the established laws. I want to witness one single person healed instantlv of some organic disease. I have not lived too long, but as yet I have not seen such. I would like to see some of these miracle-workers raise someone from the dead-leave them in a tomb for four days, and then raise them from the dead. If you know of any willing to try it, I will gladly drive the person to the cemetery. I believe in prayer as much as any. I pray that God might grant me my daily food. But I have never expected God miraculously to rain down roast beef and cream pie to supply my need for food. But the fact that I do not expect it to be done by a miracle is not a reason why I should not pray to God for my daily food. If I cannot pray for the sick unless I expect God to answer by miracle, I cannot pray for my food unless I expect God to answer by a miracle. I believe in prayer. I also believe the prayers of righteous people are stronger that the prayers of fake-healers, so we do not call them in when one of the members where I attend becomes ill.

We are told that doctors all over the country will testify to the fact that miracles of healing are being performed. We are not asking for the testimony of doctors all over the country. We are only asking for the testimony of two of them. This request was made where I preached one time with a thousand dollar reward given to the miracle-worker who actually did heal a person, as verified by two doctors. No one collected the reward. Get any instance where a man is completely healed of a blind eye, a withered leg, or a severed leg made whole. We would like to see this.

We hear a great deal of talk about people who limit the power of God by saying He cannot work miracles. I personally have never met a single member of the body of Christ who taught that God cannot work a miracle, We teach He is not, not that He cannot. But some of our religious friends would really limit the power of God. They say that God cannot do anything unless He does it through a miracle. God cannot heal unless He does it miraculously, they tell us. Now who is limiting God’s power? They are. There are many denominations who claim that they are working miracles. All of them claim their power to inspired preaching and miraculous power comes from Almighty God. Yet they declare that the other groups definitely could not be of God. At the same time, they all present the same kind of human testimony to prove their miracles. God does not grant all of them divine power, and then by inspiration guide them to teach conflicting and contradictory doctrines. The truth is that any doctrine that is taught which cannot be found in the Scriptures is not of divine origin. And if all these people teach is of Biblical origin, of what value is their claim to inspiration in their teaching and preaching? Does that make it doubly inspired?

We are asked to believe some of the most astounding events as miraculous. Once I was asked if I believed that all of the so-called miracles which have been claimed were frauds. I reply’ by stating that I deny that there has been a single miracle performed since the death of the last disciple on whom the apostles bestowed the power to work miracles. Find me an exception if you can. I was asked if I believed that the so-called miraculous experiences of John Wesley were just fraud. Sometimes people call things miracles which are not at all. We often say that it was a miracle that a man could do such-and-such a thing. but it was not or he could not have done it, without divine power. Such were some of the things spoken by John Wesley. Some time ago I ran across this account of a miracle, or at least a preacher called it that. A preacher who believed that God performed a miracle on John Wesley said this: “John Wesley was riding along on his horse, and said, `I see no reason why the great God of high heaven can’t rest me while I am riding along’. And his horse was lame and he prayed God, and God rested him in his body, and healed his horse so he trotted and didn’t limp’ ” (Nichols- Weaver Debate, p. 77). Maybe some of the healers should try healing horses. They might be more successful. Friends, don’t be deceived by these men who claim miraculous power. If they are so powerful it should be a simple matter for them to refute the arguments of one who is uninspired, but who humbly tried to reason from God’s word.

Truth Magazine XXI: 14, pp. 214-216
April 7, 1977